Living On The Internet

Is it an information superhighway, or an anthill?

Everybody understands a highway. Roads connect with other roads. Cars go to specific places. It's systematic, logical.

And there's always a map if you get lost.

An anthill, on the other hand, doesn't make much sense. The ants go every which way, stopping and starting, zig-zagging back and forth.

What's going on here? Only the ants know.

The rapidly growing Internet, the closest thing to the information superhighway as exists today, is a hodge-podge of hobbyists, businesses, schools, government agencies and institutions tied together by computer networks, modems and phone lines.

To an outsider or newcomer, it is unfathomably byzantine.

But it works just fine for the ants.

Millions of users daily send e-mail all over the glob, even to President Clinton. From their computer, they can search government databases as well as catalogs of the Library of Congress, Cambridge University library and Seattle Public Library, to name a few.

They can post want-ads, get involved with "use-groups" of like-minded people, and even role-play games, adopting a pseudonym, personality and gender that have nothing to do with your real life.

They can do and be just about anything on the long as they're one of the ants.

If they're not, the Internet might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The Internet is just one lane of the prophesied information superhighway, which is expected to offer movies on demand, interactive viewer-customized television, games, educational software and access to huge databases.

For those who cruise the highway today - the "infonauts" of the future - logging onto the Net at work, at home and in school is as second nature as turning on the television.

Hop onto the highway with them. Just be careful not to step on any ants.